The UK has announced it is ready to begin human trials for a potential vaccine for coronavirus, with tests beginning as early as this week.
Health minister Matt Hancock announced testing on humans would begin on Thursday and would join just a handful of other similar trials being carried out around the world.
He said the drug, which has been named ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, had been developed by scientists at the University of Oxford and is reported to have an 80 per cent success rate.
It was created by using a chimpanzee virus, before genetically engineering it to carry COVID-19.
Speaking at the press conference, Hancock said it remained “uncertain science” and that “in normal times, reaching this stage would take years”.
He added: “At the same time, we’ll invest in manufacturing capability, so that if either of these vaccines safely works, then we can make it available for the British people as soon as humanly possible.”
There are currently more than 30 companies around the world racing to develop a vaccine for the illness, which has killed tens of thousands of people.
In wider Europe, the Netherlands is reported to be recruiting people to trial the BCG vaccine – which is already administered to many schoolchildren to protect them from tuberculosis.
A company in Germany, CureVac, says it is preparing for human trials on its mRNA-based vaccine to begin this summer.
This is a similar timing reported for scientists at Imperial College London, who have also developed a vaccine using RNA.
Italian startup Takis Biotech estimates it will begin testing its DNA-developed vaccine later in the autumn.
In a joint declaration released by the World Health Organization, scientists around the world working to find a vaccine have acknowledged the importance but say it may take time.
It said: “We are scientists, physicians, funders and manufacturers who have come together as part of an international collaboration, coordinated by the World Health Organization (WHO), to help speed the availability of a vaccine against COVID-19.
“While a vaccine for general use takes time to develop, a vaccine may ultimately be instrumental in controlling this worldwide pandemic.”